A world-changing Event

Easter card 2017There have been a fair number of events in the last year that people have described as ‘world changing’. A referendum result, the election of a leader, landmark legislation, a scientific discovery, a technological breakthrough. But do any of these things really change anything? Are they not just tinkering around the edges of human experience? Still people are born and die, humans achieve remarkable things and do appalling things in almost equal measure, and we all ultimately succumb to disease and death.
 
The world changing event marked at Easter is centred around a three-day period about 2000 years ago during which a man died at the hands of the brutal Roman empire but now, as his followers then and many millions since have claimed, is alive again. The claim is that he was not just resuscitated but resurrected, and that it was not an isolated incident, but the beginning of a new humanity and a whole new world. If it really happened, this is the only event that really qualifies as ‘world-changing’.
 
You are warmly invited to explore and celebrate its significance this Easter.
 
With Easter greetings,

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton
April 2017


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Education and Flourishing

On the first Sunday of March our churches will be celebrating education: the dedication of teachers and support staff, the achievements of our children and young people, and the great history of the Church’s role in education.

blackboardMany of our schools and colleges and the very first universities across Europe were established by Christians and the Church. Missionary work has always been strongly linked with education, along with agriculture and healthcare. It is far more effective and empowering to teach people how to feed and look after themselves than to maintain them in a state of dependency. Freedom start with the mind. Human flourishing requires minds that are educated.

Jesus himself was a teacher, and we have a record of some of what he taught in the accounts of his life found in the Bible, including the famous ‘sermon on the mount’. Unlike many people in his day, we know that Jesus was able to read and write (both are mentioned in the Gospels), and he welcomed and taught all ages and all social classes, both individually and in groups.

The writers of the Old Testament are keen that people use and develop their minds, urging people to mediate on the Law of the Lord. In the New Testament, St Paul is another advocate of exercising and honing the mind: “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” he writes in his letter to the Roman Christians, “then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom 12:2).

Knowledge is power and can be used for good or ill. As the very opening chapters of the Bible warn us, knowledge can promote and be used for both good and evil, and we need to be concerned with more than just our ‘heads’; the ‘heart’ (which represents what motivates us) is fundamentally important. This is why education should be provided within the context of a moral framework; information and skills alongside the promotion of values and virtues. It is a legal requirement, and a consequence of our Christian heritage, that our schools do this, and this critical – though easily overlooked – moral dimension of education needs to be protected and supported.

Teaching has long been recognised as a vocation, a career to which someone is ‘called’, and it is right and good that the Church can and should celebrate the wonder and privilege of education and all those who – by God’s grace, and in the steps of Jesus – open the minds and shepherd the hearts of our children and young people, that they might truly flourish.

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell and Chilton
March 2017


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Science versus Faith?

I was appalled recently when one of my children was asked in class to choose between the scientific and the biblical explanation of the beginnings of the universe. “What if I think they are both true?” asked my conflicted offspring. The teacher didn’t seem to be able to cope with this possibility and was either unwilling or unable to adjust the lesson plan to accommodate a surprising turn of events. So she insisted on sticking with the dichotomy; science or religion was the choice. And that is the way many people think today, but is, I believe, based on misunderstanding.

If I were to come into a kitchen to find a kettle boiling, I could explain what is happening in terms of the electricity from the cable causing the element to heat up, the heat energy being transferred to the water molecules, increasing their kinetic energy to the extent that the vapour pressure of the water exceeds that of the ambient atmosphere, and the liquid therefore boiling. That is a scientific explanation. But it is also true that the water is boiling because someone is intending to make a cup of tea. Both explanations are true. One is concerned with process and mechanism and is ‘scientific’, the other is concerned with purpose and meaning. It would be a nonsense to be forced to choose between the two explanations.

earth sun moonWe live in an area of wonderful scientific research and technological innovation, and our local communities and churches are full of those who happily call themselves both scientists and Christians. This month’s Broadsheet back page interview features one of them, Dr Tony Hughes.

Feeling the need to somehow have to choose between science and faith is a relatively new thing, and certainly not shared by many scientists, past and present. The possibility of science itself – the discovery of orderly laws by which the universe is governed – is underpinned by Christian beliefs that there is a divine Creator, who has ordered all things, and created human beings in his image with the ability to understand how things are and then creatively apply that knowledge. It can be argued that it was the Christian worldview that gave rise to the scientific revolution in medieval Europe, with scientific pioneers across the disciplines, such as Boyle, Galileo, Mendel, John Ray, Newton and Faraday, being inspired by their faith, as are many leading scientists today.

Kepler expressed it well for those in his field: “astronomers are the priests of God called to interpret the book of nature”. The founders of the Royal Society considered the study of nature to be a form of religious worship and devoted the Society “to the glory of God the Creator and the advantage of the human race”.

Both science and theology are concerned with the search for truth. If you are interested in thinking about important things and exploring the relationship between science and the Christian faith, why not consider coming to the talk advertised on the front cover, or the fortnightly discussion group, or the monthly Family Science Club? There is lots of good material online and in print, too.

As it says in Psalm 111:2, and inscribed above the main door of the Cavendish Physics Laboratory in Cambridge,

“Great are the works of the Lord;
they are pondered by all who delight in them.”


Let’s ponder together!

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell and Chilton
February 2017
 


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Life in its Fullest

Christmas Card 2016The Christmas season is full of many things. The shops are full of gifts to buy, diaries full with seasonal events, and many houses full with visitors. The temptation of luxury foods, a seasonal tipple, and the obligatory turkey can fill our stomachs to bursting, full of things we don’t really need.

So when Jesus says he has come to give us life in its fullest, is he talking about the fullness of frenetic activity, surging crowds and piles of stuff? I don’t think so. Jesus was born in poverty and spent his public ministry without possessions or home, leaving the riches of heaven to bring to us something that we do all desperately need.

The fullness that Jesus brings – and is announced by the Christmas angels – is the fullness of a relationship with God that gives meaning, peace and joy. All this and more is available to all who will ask Jesus to fill their lives in an unimaginable way.

May you know peace and joy – and life in its fullest – this Christmas and in the coming year.

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton
December 2016


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Lighting up the Darkness 

You may read this around the time when the clocks go back an hour and ‘Daylight Saving Time’ ends. ‘Losing an hour’ of light at this time of year can be striking, and thoughts often turn to how we might brighten things up a bit.

sunset

Fireworks displays are a great way to light up the night sky with dazzling displays, and if not already up, High Streets up and down the country will soon be putting up festive lights in order to hopefully attract shoppers. We are even now making plans to put the Christmas trees and lights up on our churches to lend some cheer to the darkest weeks of the year.
 
There is another type of light that we celebrate, particularly locally – the bright ideas of creativity and scientific discovery that shines light into areas of dark ignorance. Right in our midst we have the ‘Diamond Light’ source, a wonderful example of how cutting edge technology has been harnessed and made available to researchers from around the world, bringing with it the hope of medical advances, new technologies, and the world made better in numerous ways. In September our churches started a year-long project to encourage people to explore the fruitful relationship between science and faith, and celebrate the great gift of God that science is. See page 7 for news of the Family Science Club; news of other events and activities to follow.
 
Great good can come from the light cast by science, but the way scientific discoveries are harnessed is entirely down to the choices made by individual people. The deeds done by humans themselves are described in the Bible as light.
 
Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
 
What a difference we can make with the time, talents and opportunities that we each have. The interviewee in this month's Broadsheet is Judy Goodall, whose good deeds in the community and contribution to making the world a brighter place were recently recognised with a British Empire Medal. Judy follows in the steps of the one who described himself as the Light of the World, who came to banish the darkness that so blights human life.
 
Jesus is divine light incarnate, “the true light that gives light to everyone” (John 1:9) who came into the world. As plants naturally grow towards the light, so we are invited to turn towards the light of God. In the dark months ahead, let us decide to do just that, as we look forward to the arrival of the glorious light and warmth of spring!
 
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn” (Isaiah 60:1-3).

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton
November 2016


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The Giving Season 

Harvest is a time when nature is in ‘giving mode’. Having spent the previous seasons hibernating, germinating, and growing, plants have moved into a phase of producing an astonishing variety of fruit and seeds. Having taken in water, nutrients and sunshine, and reached the peak of maturity, we are treated to a dazzling display of the bounty of nature. Having spent the previous part of the year in receptive mode, the harvest season is all about the self-giving of nature.

harvestThe Bible uses the picture of fruitfulness to describe what it is to be a fully-developed human. Mature character is described in Paul’s letter to the Galatian Christians as displaying love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, humility, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (cf Gal 5:22-23). This bountiful harvest of personal qualities is described as the ‘fruit of the Spirit’, the inevitable consequence in season of a life blessed and watered by God. It is what is to be expected in “those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Gal 5:24) and who, on a daily basis, become more and more like their Master.

It is traditional at harvest time to give thanks to God for his provision of food, for answering our prayer to “Give us this day our daily bread”. It is also traditional to share that bounty with those in need. In both our churches during our harvest celebrations, non-perishable items are collected and given to Didcot Emergency Food Bank, and we raise money for Tearfund who work with those living in poverty in other parts of the world. It seems appropriate to join with nature’s pattern of moving from a season of receiving to a season of giving.
 
The life-giving harvest is a beautiful illustration of the giving heart of God, who provides “daily bread” not just for our physical needs but also for our spiritual needs. ’All good gifts around use are sent from heaven above’. Without God’s good gifts humans would perish.
 
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton
October 2016


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Community and Unity 

The EU Referendum has revealed deep divisions within our country and, indeed, our local community. During the campaign and in the aftermath of the vote, strong feelings have been expressed, and people on both sides have been hurt. There are reports both of a rise in xenophobic behaviour and of people feeling unable to speak about legitimate concerns for fear of being misunderstood. Whilst some are optimistic, others are fearful about the future.
 
There is much work to be done, not only by our national leaders in brokering a good ‘Brexit’ outcome, but also by ordinary people at the local level to heal rifts in communities and restore relationships.
 
One of the most emotive issues in the whole Referendum debate has been immigration. Whatever our views on how or whether immigration should be regulated, Christians must in their attitude and dealing with others take their lead from God, whose heart is revealed in the Bible to be very much for all people.
 
Whilst the Old Testament is focussed on the history of a particular ethnic group, the Israelites, they are told that non-Israelites living with them are not to be mistreated, but to be treated as one of them, loved even (cf Lev 19:33-34), and given an inheritance in the land (cf Ezek 47:21-23). From the very beginnings of the Church in the New Testament, people from all nations have been included and welcomed, irrespective of race or nationality. The Christian faith is about radical hospitality.
 
The Church is called to represent and serve the whole community. As in the wider country, people in our churches and its leadership voted for both Remain and Leave. Some people have been open about their decision, many have kept it private. As our community is not monochrome, neither is the Church. But despite its diversity, it is called and committed to being united.
 
St Paul likens the Church to a human body – a single thing, but made up of many, different and complementary parts. He explains that ‘The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” ’ All the parts are needed and valuable, and there should be no division. It is the diversity of its parts that when working in harmony gives the body its amazing abilities. Just think of the astonishing athletic feats displayed in the recent Olympics.
 
In Chilton and Harwell we have a wonderfully broad mix of ages, temperaments, skills and ethnicities – an inspiring cross-section of God’s diverse creation. As the late Jo Cox MP observed, “we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us”. All human beings are made in God’s image and are equally valuable. We need to value and celebrate the diversity of our local community, and the strength and richness that diversity gives. We should say to no-one “I don’t need you”.
 
It is easy, however, to express ourselves badly, to misunderstand one another, and to make unfair assumptions without really taking time to hear what the other is saying. We should always speak with gentleness and respect, and be prepared to apologise when we cause offence or upset, whether intended or not.
 
Good communication is essential for good relationships and a healthy community. Unity, whether in a local church, a village, a country, or even a group of countries, can only be achieved when we are prepared to listen and learn from one another, taking a turn at being an ‘ear’ in the body. Taking time and effort in the months ahead to listen respectfully and carefully will be essential for our political leaders, and for all of us.
 
Let’s make every effort – despite our political, cultural and ethnic diversity – to be united. It is God’s will and plan for his world.
 
“God made known to us the mystery of his will… to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (Ephesians 1:9-10).
 

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey, Rector
Revd Pam Rolls, Associate Minister
Peter Shields, Children & Families’ Worker
September 2016


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Running the Race 

A few years ago, whilst working as a GP, I had a visit from a man who had ruptured his Achilles tendon, that which attaches the calf muscle to the heel. He was rather embarrassed to explain that it happened during the Dad’s race at the school sports day. Out of condition and sprinting from a cold start, his hope of sporting glory was cruelly cut short by a ‘pop’ in the back of his leg and a humiliating crash to the ground.
 
School sports days with their egg-and-spoon, sack and other races, are very much a summer tradition. Summer and sport are closely associated for many people, whether it be following Wimbledon, the Tour de France, the US Open, cricket Test Matches, the Summer Olympics, family rounders, or welly-wanging at the village fete.
 
raceThe Apostle Paul was fond of describing the Christian faith in terms of sport. Writing to a first-century church in the Greek city of Corinth, the location of an annual Games, second only in importance to the ancient Olympics, he says, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the Games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever." 1 Corinthians 9:24-25.

So how is the Christian life like a race?

For a start, it only lasts for a time. Some get to run a great distance, others much less, but we each have a limited time on this earth, that we should “live aright”, as the funeral service puts it.

Secondly, it needs commitment. As with studying for exams (another summer tradition!), long-term relationships, parenting children, or pursuing a career or significant project, the Christian faith takes day-in, day-out commitment and focus. Every day we have to choose whether to press on or ‘throw in the towel’.

Thirdly, it has a goal. If we decide to don the kit and get down onto the track in the full view of the crowd of spectators to join the Christian race, we are doing so because there is a prize to be won, a ‘crown’ as Paul puts it.

Thankfully, It does not depend on our performance, since it is a team sport, but we do need to be on the team. Jesus, through his life, death and resurrection, has won the prize for us, which will be shared with all the team members.

So if you are worried that taking part risks rupturing a spiritual Achilles tendon or worse, fret not. The eternal crown is already in the hands of the victorious team captain.

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton
July 2016


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Summer 2016 

Growing God's Church - wider, deeper and closer


Dear Church Member,

On Tuesday (7th June) our PCCs met and discussed a number of issues, including four key areas in which we hope to see God’s Church grow wider, deeper and closer. I would like to draw attention to these areas in this letter, which also asks five questions that invite your response.


Worship Services – ‘inherited’ and ‘fresh’
Harvest 2013Central to our church life is our regular pattern of worship services where we Welcome one another in God’s name, encounter God through his Word, respond in Worship and are sent out to Witness to God’s goodness – to “live and work to His praise and glory”. We meet in order that the Kingdom of God is extended and God’s Church is grown wider, deeper and closer.

But our established form of worship, whilst enjoyed and appreciated by many, does not suit all, especially those who have been born since the 1960s. In recent decades there has been a major cultural shift and progressive reduction in the number of those brought up attending and familiar with church. Many of those in so-called generations ‘X’, ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ do not connect with what could be called “inherited church” and need a “fresh expression” that fits more closely with their culture and outlook. The Church has constantly needed to adapt as it has encountered new cultures and new times, and that is especially true today.

In seeking to serve and be relevant and accessible to our whole community, our two churches are committed to developing a new form of worship alongside our traditional ways of doing things, drawing from the wealth of experience that other churches have of successfully connecting with those not engaged with ‘inherited church’.

fresh expressionOur PCCs have decided that this ‘Fresh Expression’ should be done co-operatively across Harwell and Chilton to serve both parishes, with the target audience being younger adults and families, whilst being open to all.

So what will it look like? The details are yet to be worked out, but key words are informal, interactive, relational, accessible, participative, and fun. It is likely that food would be involved. Various options are being considered for timing (e.g. Sunday, Saturday or a weekday) and location (e.g. in a church building, a hall, or a school). It would seek to learn and take the best from Alpha, Messy Church, Connect, Hands Free, and Café Church.

Would you like to be involved in shaping this exciting new initiative, and consider committing to it?

jan presidingAlongside this ‘Fresh Expression’ we are of course committed to preserving all that is good in the current way we do things. In some ways Sunday services are the ‘shop window’ of the church and we get large numbers of visitors, with the potential for many more. How can we make the most of this opportunity for new people to engage with Sunday worship, become involved in church life, come to faith in Jesus and grow? I would find it really helpful to know your views on what is it about our regular services that make it easy or difficult to invite others.

If wanting to attract more people to our services, what do you feel should be continued, and what should be changed?

Please either write your thoughts on a slip of paper and put it in the collection bag or wall safe, or else email me or send me a message via the website, which can be done anonymously if you wish.


CAP Centre
CAPimage-300x300Christians Against Poverty (CAP) exists to bring freedom and good news to the poor by releasing people from debt, poverty and their causes. This is done through services run by local churches – CAP Debt Centres, Job Clubs, Release Groups and the Money Course. Our churches have recently been running CAP Money Courses, and a member of Harwell PCC, Lizi Bowerman, is an Area Manager for CAP. More info here: https://capuk.org

In January 2015 a partnership of three churches established a CAP Debt Centre in Wallingford, serving those in the OX10 area. CAP Wallingford has been successful in helping those in great financial need and also in connecting people into local church fellowships. There is, however, demand for CAP Debt Centre coverage in our (OX11) area. Our PCCs have therefore been discussing the possibility of partnering with other local churches to support the expansion of the Wallingford CAP Centre to cover our area. This would involve a financial commitment, but also the need to provide volunteers to support the Centre Manager and CAP clients.

Would you be interested in supporting this either through volunteering or giving?


Science and Faith
science and faithSince the autumn a group has been meeting regularly to explore the relationship between science and faith. A perceived conflict between the two is a stumbling block for many, but this is often based in misunderstanding. Given our location, these issues are especially relevant. The group has had a fruitful time exploring how science and faith are in fact complementary ways of looking at reality and have much to offer each other.

We have been successful in securing funding for a year-long project that helps people engage in the conversation between science and theology. The project will include a monthly, hands-on family science club, an adult discussion forum, and three high-profile speaker events, and will begin in September.

Please speak to Carina Lobley or me, project co-directors, if you would like to know more or are interested in getting involved.


Ministry Apprentices or ‘Interns’
ministry traineesSome of the funding for the Science and Faith project is available for an intern to manage the project, and this opens up the exciting possibility of having one, or even two, Ministry Apprentices or ‘Interns’ attached to our churches next year.

A growing number of churches and Christian organisations are developing and running internship or apprenticeship schemes, local examples being St Ebbe’s Church and St Aldate’s Church in Oxford, and ‘Christians in Sport’ (Bicester). Interns typically spend a year post-university in a combination of ministry experience, practical service and formal training. Training interns is a way of investing in the next generation of Christian leaders and growing the ministries of local churches.

We discussed this possibility at our recent PCC meeting and in principle thought it was a good idea. One thing that would make this realistic would be the provision of accommodation.

Do you – or someone you know – have accommodation – a room, annex or even a floor of your house, perhaps – that could be made available for a Christian graduate (or two), for a few months or even a full year, so that they could live and work amongst us?


I am excited about what God is doing amongst us – there is much encouragement and many possibilities for seeing God’s Church grow deeper, wider and closer, including through a ‘fresh expression’ of worship, a CAP Debt Centre, exploring the interaction of science and faith, and beginning a ministry apprentice/internship scheme. Please be thinking and praying about these possibilities and how you might be involved in working with God to grow His Church in Chilton, Harwell and beyond.

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow… For we are fellow workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Cor 3:6,9).

With best wishes,

Jonathan

Revd Dr Jonathan L Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton
Summer 2016


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A Good Father 

It is hard being a good father, grandfather, stepfather or other father figure. It is much harder in fact to be a Dad than become one!
 
But what is a good father?
 
It is widely acknowledged, whether we look at scripture, academic research or day-to-day experience, that fathers make unique and irreplaceable contributions in the lives of their children. Research shows that children with good dads are usually more at ease with other people, have more confidence to do well at school, and are happier.
 
fatherAnd fathers have a crucial role to play in the spiritual nurture of their children. Research carried out by the Church of England in 2008 showed that an overwhelming number of dads – 88 per cent – felt that they were responsible for the spiritual care of their child. More dads than mums in fact. Dads clearly want to accept responsibility not only for the physical and financial well-being of their child, but also for their spiritual well-being.
 
Normal child development includes a child beginning to ask deep questions about life and explore spiritual things. The commitment and encouragement of both parents, and other significant adults, makes a huge difference to that development. How well-equipped do we feel for the task?

Our Father in heaven understands the challenge, and equips us for this God-given work.

God sets the pattern for all earthly dads, and men who walk in his footsteps are following the perfect example.

His affirming love is sacrificial
His guidance is based on wisdom
His discipline is rooted in love
His support comes from a giving heart
 
The Apostle Paul tells us that every family in heaven and on earth derives its name from God; he is the ultimate Father, able to empower all earthly fathers – all of us in fact – to be the people we need to be and do the things
we need to do, strengthened “with power through his Spirit” (Ephesians 3:15-16). We just need to ask our Father in heaven, who loves to “give good gifts to those who ask him” (Matt 7:11).
 
All fathers, grandfathers, stepfathers, father figures and their families are invited to a celebration and BBQ on Father’s Day, Sunday 19th June, held at Chilton Primary School from 4.30-5.30pm. More information on page 6. It is good and right to celebrate these special men and what they mean to us.

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton
June 2016


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A Remarkable Woman 

queenThe Queen is by any measure a remarkable woman
 
She's the longest reigning monarch in British history.
 
She never went to university, but she has been the adviser and confidante to twelve British Prime Ministers.
 
She's a 90-year-old senior citizen, but still works over 40 hours a week.
 
She employs 1200 people, but feeds her own dogs.
 
She can rebuild the 6-cylinder, 3462cc engine of an Austin K2 Ambulance, trek hatless for hours on her Fell pony across the windswept Highland moors, but she looks entirely comfortable and elegant in the 488 diamond Kokoshnik tiara.
 
She is the most famous woman in the world, but seems as relaxed in a school. a residential care home or a technology company as in the company of celebrities or other Heads of State.
 
She is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, attends church weekly, even on holiday, and prays daily but never tells anyone to go to church.
 
She has no power to make political decisions but her personal authority has brought nations together.
 
She has had a gruelling travel and work schedule for over 6o years but as political commentator Andrew Marr pointed out: ‘There are no reliable recorded incidents of the Queen losing her temper, using bad language, or  refusing to carry out a duty expected of her.’
 
Most of us would find it hard to match that record for a week never mind 60 years.
 
What is the secret of the Queen's remarkable consistency of character and extraordinary contribution to nation, Commonwealth and the global community?
 
It's a question she herself answered in 2002:
 
“I know just how much I rely on my faith to guide me through the good times and the bad. Each day is a new beginning. I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my
best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God... I draw strength from the message of hope in the Christian gospel.”
 
(From the introduction to ‘The Servant Queen and the King she serves’ by Mark Greene and Catherine Butcher)
 
Join in a celebration of the Queen’s 90th birthday at a special ‘Songs of Praise’ service in the Feast Marquee on Harwell Recreation Ground at 4pm on Sunday 29th May.

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton
May 2016


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An informed Decision 

Chocolate brownie or sticky toffee pudding? Say ‘I will’ or ‘No thanks’? Cash in your pension pot or leave it untouched? Life is full of decisions, and every day is a succession of options and choices, some relatively insignificant, others potentially life-changing. But we can only make a good decision when we have the facts. We would never agree to major surgery without good reason – a diagnosis, an explanation of what is involved, and any associated risks. For important decisions, it is essential that we make a choice that is informed.

So how are you going to vote in the EU Referendum? Should we stay or should we go? Do you feel you know enough about the pros and cons to decide? This is an important decision, arguably more so even than a General Election. Fully informed or not, every British adult will get to express their choice on 23rd June, and a momentous decision will be made.

In or OutThere is another once-in-a-lifetime issue, potentially far more important, that we each need to decide about. What I am thinking about has significance not just for decades or even centuries, but for eternity. Jesus put the issue before his disciples 2000 years ago: “Who do you say that I am?” And this is something that we each need to decide for ourselves. The Christian faith claims that everything hangs on our personal response to that leading question. But how do we make an informed choice?

For a start we should look at what the Bible says; it contains eye-witness accounts of the life, death and – alleged – resurrection of Jesus, and of those who first believed that Jesus rose from the dead. St Luke is concerned that his readers consider the evidence and make an informed decision about Jesus. Right at the beginning of his contribution to the Bible he says,

“Since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I… decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:3-4)

The Bible must be our starting point. But alongside the Bible we should look at the evidence of history. We should also look at whether the Christian claims hang together and fit with what we know of the world, or whether other religions or worldviews make more sense. We should look critically at the difference that genuine adherence to the Christian faith makes in societies and in individuals. Does prayer make a difference? Does God heal today? Without investigating these sorts of things, we cannot make an informed decision.

The Alpha Course provides an opportunity to explore these crucial questions in a friendly, interactive setting. Alpha has been run in 169 countries and attended by over 22 million people who have wanted to make an informed decision about matters of eternal significance. We will be hosting Alpha at the Harwell Village Club (RBL) in April and May. For help with making an informed decision about an issue far more important even than the EU Referendum, why not commit over seven Thursday evenings to just 12 hours of stimulating conversation, good company and delicious food? (All for free). You may even get a choice of desserts! http://hcchurches.org/alpha

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton
April 2016 


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What is Truth?

Easter Card Design 2016A recent survey found that only 38 percent of the average Easter egg box is actually Easter egg. The rest is paper and plastic.

What percentage of the Easter story do you think is actually true, and how much myth?

What about the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead? According to a survey last year 43 percent of people believe it to have happened. Christianity stands or falls on the Resurrection. The Apostle Paul himself said to the Corinthian Christians, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith" (1 Cor 15:14). But if the Resurrection is true, then it proves that Jesus was God's Son, that there is meaning to life, that we can be forgiven, and that death is not the end.

Truth, proof and evidence. "What is truth?" asked Pontius Pilate shortly before washing his hands of Jesus' blood (Jn 18:38). The Truth was staring him in the face. "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life," Jesus had claimed, just the night before.

Why not cast aside the packaging and seek the Truth this Easter? There can be nothing more important.

With warm Easter greetings,

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton
March 2016


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Love from Your Valentine 

We love because he lovedAround 250 AD there lived in Rome a priest by the name of Valentine. At that time, Claudius was the Emperor, and Claudius wanted to create a large Roman army. He thought men should volunteer to join, but many men just did not want to leave home and go off to fight in wars. They did not want to leave their girlfriends and wives, so very few joined up. This made Emperor Claudius both angry and determined to do something about this. He had the idea that if men were not married, they would be more inclined to join his army. So Claudius decreed that there would be no more marriages.

Young people thought his new law was really cruel. Valentine thought it was ridiculous! One of his favourite duties as a priest was to marry people. After Emperor Claudius passed his law, Valentine kept on performing marriage ceremonies – but secretly. He would whisper the words of the ceremony, whilst listening for soldiers on the steps outside.

One night, Valentine did hear footsteps at his door. The couple he was marrying escaped, but he was caught. He was thrown into jail and told that his punishment was death. Many young people came to the jail to visit him, and threw flowers and notes up to his window. They wanted him to know that they, too, believed in love.

One of these young people was the daughter of the prison guard. Her father allowed her to visit him in his cell. They often sat and talked for hours. She believed he did the right thing by ignoring the Emperor and performing marriage ceremonies.

On the day Valentine was to die, he left her a note thanking her for her friendship and loyalty. He signed it, "Love from your Valentine." That note started the custom of exchanging love notes on Valentine’s Day. It was written on the day he died, February 14, 269 AD. Now, every year on this day, people remember. But most importantly, they think about love and friendship. When they think of Emperor Claudius, they remember how he tried to stand in the way of love, and they laugh - because they know that love can’t be beaten!

Love fills our airwaves, literature, cinemas and screens. It has preoccupied people of all cultures and times and has motivated great acts of heroism and sacrifice. It cannot be banned, ignored, or forgotten. Love is stronger than death.
Christians believe “God is love, and those who live in love live in God and God lives in them” (1 Jn 4:16). And they see in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ the ultimate example and expression of love.

Love is the supreme good and should be celebrated. Valentine’s Day is a great occasion to do just that. So this year we have a special service on Valentine’s Day afternoon for those who would like to give thanks to God for and seek his blessing on their relationship. All couples welcome – details of the service on the front cover. Let’s celebrate God’s wonderful gift of love!

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton
February 2016


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Silent Night, Holy Night

Chilton Church final low-resSilence is not something many would associate with Christmas, with all its busyness and pressure. And for those who do, it can be a negative thing, when the silence of loneliness or despair can overwhelm.

But alongside the joyful (and no doubt noisy!) singing of an angelic choir, the Christmas story does have moments of stillness and calm. As in the eye of a storm, God’s entry into this world as a human being creates an oasis in the midst of enemy occupation, grinding poverty, and social strife. The silence of that Holy Night represents the possibility of resting in the love and peace that God makes available to all in Jesus.
Harwell Church final low res
You are warmly welcome to any of the services and events run by your local churches this Christmas, whether to join in with a ‘joyful noise’ or take some time out to reflect in quietness. Christ the Saviour is born!

May you know God’s joy and rest in his peace this Christmas and in the coming year.

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton
December 2015


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Access for All

In recent years there has been a big drive to make public buildings more widely accessible. Since the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, service providers have needed to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to premises to overcome physical barriers to access, whilst balancing cost and other practicalities. This has resulted in wheelchair ramps, hearing loops, large print publications, and many other innovations. The principle is one of natural justice; it is right that everyone should have opportunities to access the good things of life.

accessThis is a very biblical principle. The equality of all humans is asserted in the opening chapters of the Bible, which speak of God creating all humans ‘in his image’. All humans have the capacity to relate to God and all are called by God into relationship with him.

Throughout the Bible God ensures that special provision is made for vulnerable groups, for the diseased and disabled, the poor, and the ‘orphans and widows’. Jesus famously ministered amongst the sick and social outcasts, and the Church and individual Christians have continued that work of serving those in need, setting up schools, orphanages and hospitals, and pioneering work amongst the homeless, imprisoned, addicted, and dying.

Throughout history, the Church has sought to make the Gospel accessible to all, and has in the process translated the full Bible into 531 languages to date, and created myriad forms of worship for different cultures. Youth groups, lunch clubs, prison outreach, and countless other groups and activities have been set up to reach every segment of society with the life-transforming Gospel.

It is the vision of our churches in Harwell and Chilton to be accessible and relevant to everyone, serving the whole community in God’s name.

The new access path at All Saints’ is a concrete(!) expression of that – helping the infirm, elderly and very young to access the church building and all that goes on there. But there is much more to do.

St Matthew’s Church Council is actively thinking about how we can make our church building more accessible, comfortable and flexible – this includes thinking about the related issues of heating and seating. At All Saints’ we are thinking about how we might make our worship services accessible to a wider range of people – those who want something informal and contemporary, as well as those who love the formal, liturgical expressions of worship; an option being considered is moving to two differing services every Sunday morning.

And we would love to know what you think about all this. How do you think our churches could serve the villages of Harwell and Chilton better? How could our church buildings, worship services, and different groups and activities be made more relevant and accessible to 21st century men, women and children?

There are various ways you can let us know.

  1. You can respond online to the Chilton Services consultation at http://hcchurches.org/chiltonservices, and also at the November All Saints’ Charity Market; response slips are also available in church.

  2. St Matthew’s ‘Fit for the Future’ consultation is to be launched in late November, with a display and response slips in church. Further info and resources at http://hcchurches.org/fitforthefuture. Further publicity around the village to follow.

  3. Do please also let us know what you think of our new ‘mobile-friendly’ website: http://hcchurches.org. It is another way in which we are trying to become more accessible!

Or you could simply speak to or email me – my contact details are found here.


Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell and Chilton
November 2015


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Refugees Welcome

How many refugees in the Bible can you name? How about Adam, Eve, Cain, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Lot, Hagar, Ishmael, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, Esau, and Joseph? That’s just those in the first book of the Bible, Genesis. There are plenty more throughout the Old Testament, including Moses, Ruth, David, Elijah, Ezekiel and Daniel, and Mary, Joseph, Peter and many others in the New Testament. And the central character of the whole Bible, Jesus himself, fled as a refugee to Egypt as a child. The Bible is full of people displaced by natural disaster, war, famine and persecution.

In fact, according to the book of Ephesians, all human beings are refugees of a spiritual kind, strangers to God’s provision, wandering exiles, excluded from citizenship with God’s people. That is, until Jesus welcomed us in. That was a costly welcome, but through Jesus’ death we were granted not just asylum but a permanent home in the family of God.
Refugees Welcome
It is right, and a very Christian approach, to want to respond to the refugee crisis. The current European migrant crisis has already been named the worst of its kind since the Second World War. Thousands of people are risking their lives to escape war and persecution from countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea. Over 2,700 people have lost their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea this year. Many others have died using other perilous modes of transport.

With conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa showing little sign of improvement, how can we respond to relieve the suffering of those affected?

We could use our people power to lobby the decision makers. We could write to or email our MP, Ed Vaizey, the Prime Minister, or sign a petition. We could give to any number of charities working with displaced people, including TearFund, whose work with asylum seekers our churches will be supporting this Harvest through our donations and sales of Harvest produce. We could support a grassroots group such as ‘Jungle Books’, or even consider providing accommodation for those in need, e.g. via Citizens UK. And we could pray.

The refugee crisis will not go away soon. Refugees will always exist, and we will constantly be called upon to respond to those in need. God has not ignored our plight, paying a great price to welcome us. Nor should we ignore the plight of those in desperate need.

‘For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ … “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ Matthew 25:35-36,40 (NLT).

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell and Chilton
October 2015


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Festival Time

Glastonbury, Isle of Wight, Cornbury, Reading, Blackheath. Many thousands come from far and wide to be there. Are you planning to join them?

With the arrival of the summer come summer festivals. To gather in large numbers for a big celebration has long been and remains today a powerful urge. Even when the weather refuses to co-operate, revellers are prepared to brave fields that have become quagmires to soak up (sometimes literally) all that is on offer at these huge events. Of course some of what happens is not good, but many of those involved are motivated by an impulse that runs deep in humans. The festival is an important part of life.
Festival
The word festival comes for the Latin for ‘feast’, and festivals and feasts are a key feature in most religions. Well-known in Christianity are the joyful feasts of Christmas and Easter, but there are also lesser known feasts, such as that of the Ascension, when Jesus ascended to heaven 40 days after his resurrection from the dead.

Another key feast is Pentecost, or Whit Sunday, recently celebrated, which marks the giving of the Holy Spirit to the Church 50 days after Easter. The Feast of Pentecost is the origin of the Harwell Feast held on Spring Bank Holiday in late May. And what a great event it was this year.

Feasts in the Bible are full of joyful voices, festive music, dancing, and abundant food. So not unlike festivals today. But unlike secular festivals, they are not simply parties, but celebrations together of God’s goodness towards his people. They also do not simply celebrate the past or present. They are also a foretaste of things to come.

Jesus spoke of God’s planned future for humanity – the kingdom of heaven – as a great feast to which people from around the world and throughout the epochs of history will come.

“I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven”
Matthew 8:11


At end of history God will resurrect all his people from every age to live with him forever. Every feast celebrated now is a small taste of what is to come. All are invited to the eternal feast. Will you be there?

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell and Chilton
July 2015


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VE Day - not there yet

Why is there still fighting when the battle is won? Why is there sickness and suffering if Jesus is Lord?

Advertised on the front page of this month’s Broadsheet is the annual D-Day memorial service held at the ‘Harwell Stone’. Harwell and Chilton have a strong historic connection to the events of D-Day, 6 June 1944, in which Allied forces invaded northern France. The beach landings in Normandy were a break through the German army’s defences, and the beginning of an attack that took them all the way to the German capital Berlin, to the bunker that was Adolf Hitler’s headquarters. D-Day was a decisive day that culminated in bringing World War Two to an end.
 VE70
But the War in Europe didn’t actually end until VE-Day, 8 May 1945, the 70th anniversary of which we have just celebrated. There was an 11-month gap between D-Day and VE-Day. The decisive battle had been won on D-Day, but it was not until VE-Day that hostilities ceased.

There is often a time lag between a decisive event and its conclusion. Cancer is a terrible disease and sometimes there is no cure. But sometimes an operation can remove the cancer which would otherwise kill the individual affected. The surgical ‘cure’ is instant, but it can take weeks or months for the person to make a full recovery.

On the Cross, Jesus won the decisive battle against the hostile forces set against humans. He defeated sin and death itself, proving his victory by rising from the dead. But that victory was won almost 2000 years ago, and still sin and death are very much a part of our world. How does that fit with talk of Jesus being ‘the victor’? There is much in the world that would seem to contradict such a notion.

But Jesus’ victory is similar to the victory of the Allies. The Cross marked a kind of cosmic ‘D-Day’ – a decisive win. But hostilities will continue until the appointed ‘VE-Day’ (‘Victory on Earth Day’) when Christ will return in glory, crush his enemies, and establish a new heaven and a new earth, when wars will cease and death shall be no more.

But why the delay? 2000 years seems an awfully long time to wait. God has his reasons. The Apostle Peter, brutally martyred for his faith in Jesus, understood and wrote:

“Dear friends, don’t forget that for the Lord one day is the same as a thousand years, and a thousand years is the same as one day. The Lord isn’t slow about keeping his promises, as some people think he is. In fact, God is patient, because he wants everyone to turn from sin and no one to be lost.”
(2 Peter 3:8-9)

The Lord is not unmerciful in delaying – quite the opposite. In this time between the First and Second Coming of Christ, God is giving all people an opportunity to join God’s side, the winning side. Have you joined the side of the divine victor?

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell and Chilton
June 2015


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The weakest link? 

“You are the weakest link – goodbye!”

Watching the seven-way leaders’ debate recently, I couldn't help but think it looked very much like an episode of ‘The Weakest Link’, the quick-fire general knowledge quiz hosted by the formidable Anne Robinson in which contestants decided at the end of each round which of their number should be eliminated.

In this contest, it is the public, however, who determine, at the ballot box, how well the candidates do. By the time you read this, the nation may already have decided who is the strongest and the weakest link, and who leaves the competition with the prize.
wwjd vote
Humans have experimented with a mind-boggling variety of forms of government, from royal succession, military coup, to the myriad versions of democracy. In an imperfect world, no system of government is perfect, but it is usually thought that democracy is the least bad option. But given that we, the people, then have to decide who governs, how should we choose where to place our cross?

We certainly shouldn’t go for the party leader or candidate who is the most photogenic, delivers the best speeches, or is able to turn on the charm. Many terrible leaders of the past have had oodles of charisma. Equally, we shouldn’t feel pressured to follow the crowd, or the expectations of family or friends. Many a bad decision is made as a result of peer pressure and not being true to oneself. We should instead – to the best of our ability – choose according to our consciences, informed by good sense, and concerned for the common good, and not our own vested interests.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian Christians, ‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others’ Philippians 2:3-4

That should characterise our approach to voting, but also characterise the individual or party that we choose.

Some Christians wear bracelets with the initials ‘WWJD’. It stands for ‘What Would Jesus Do?’, a good ethical guide in any situation. The passage I quoted from above goes on to say ‘what Jesus actually did’: ‘In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant’ Philippians 2:5-7

Jesus made himself a servant. The word ‘minister’ has the same meaning as ‘servant’, and a “Prime Minister” must surely therefore be one who is the foremost in serving others.
 

Jesus is the ultimate leader – at the same time a king, a military victor, and one chosen by individuals to be their Lord – and if we are wise we will choose as our ruler one who has the same servant “mindset”.

Whilst on the cross, Jesus was derided for weakness. Servants can sometimes seem weak, but Jesus in his life, death and resurrection demonstrated that seeming weakness can actually be the greatest and most loving demonstration of strength.

So this General Election, place your cross where Jesus placed his. Let your cross show your love.

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell and Chilton
May 2015


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Easter traditions

Many of us have Easter traditions – hot cross buns, Easter egg hunts, family gatherings – good things that can help us to celebrate the high point of the Christian year. A flower that is traditional at Easter – and featured on our Easter card this year – is the lily.

Easter card 2015
Lilies are also popular at funerals; Good Friday marks the death of Jesus. Lilies also represent new life; Easter Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and the possibility of new life. Lilies – in their flawless white form – also represent purity; because of what Jesus has done at Easter, moral cleansing is available to each of us.

The Cross of Christ stands at the centre of the Easter weekend. Jesus and his Cross stand at the centre of human civilisation, dividing history into BC and AD. And Jesus calls each of us to put him at the centre of our lives and the lives of our families, too.

Coming to one or more of the range of services and events listed on the church website is a good way to help us put Jesus and his Cross at the centre this Easter. Anything that helps us to do this would surely be the best Easter tradition of all.

With warm Easter greetings,
 
Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton
April 2015

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The bigger picture 

Love is in the air. The big focus at the time of writing, with the shops and cinemas full of the usual pink hearts and chubby cupids, is, of course, Valentine’s Day. But just one month later we are giving flowers once again as we celebrate another type of love on Mothering Sunday.

Romantic love is famous for being narrowly focussed, but parental love sees the bigger picture. Romantic love can come and go, but parental love is there for the long-haul. Parents are under great pressure to give in to demands for more junk food or screen time than is good for their children, but they have to take the long view – choosing what is ultimately best for their children, who often don’t appreciate the reasons.

We discipline our children for the same reason. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Heb 2:11). And this is the approach that our loving heavenly Father takes with us. Because of their love, parents need to see the bigger picture and take the longer view.
ICSI
Science, too, needs to take account of the bigger picture and take the longer view. Parliament has recently been debating and voting on so-called ‘Three Parent Families’ – the possibility of using ground-breaking IVF techniques to try to prevent the transmission of the terrible and currently incurable mitochondrial diseases that can afflict whole families. It is a technique that involves creating an embryo from material from either three or four individuals.

The prospect of preventing terrible diseases is exciting, but many concerns have been raised, including about the destruction of human embryos, potential identity confusion of any resulting children, and uncertainty about the long-term effects on children; some scientists believe that children born this way could have an increased risk of cancer or premature ageing. This proposal would also broach the internationally-agreed ban on ‘germ line’ modification (resulting in genetic changes that would be passed on down future generations, for good or ill).

A fundamental problem that I have is accepting the principle that we should be able to genetically modify our children. We might be wanting to consider doing this for the best of intentions, but need to stand back to see the bigger picture and take the longer view. We need to ask how this might affect our treatment of those with disabilities, our view of children as a gift, and our attitude to human life itself. Love requires us to do this.

So whether in good times or bad, in the intimacy of our families or the grandeur of public discourse, let us take account of the bigger picture and take the longer view in our loving. For “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Cor 13:7-8a).

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell and Chilton
March 2015


  


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Beautiful things 

An abridged version of the sermon preached at the funeral of Koreen Davis, Harwell School Secretary, who died on 6th January 2015.
beautiful tree
Koreen Jennifer Davis was one of life’s beautiful things.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.


Today we have been sharing our memories of Koreen and giving thanks to Him for her life. Koreen loved and was loved by so many, and that makes it so difficult to accept and to understand why she is no longer with us. Why did she have to go?

There is so much in this world that is beyond our understanding. Science can discover great things and philosophers can have amazing insights – but even the greatest can’t answer all our questions.

The Bible says in Deuteronomy 29:29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever”. We don’t know why Koreen had to go, but Jesus revealed something about God’s plans that should give us comfort.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled”, Jesus said to his disciples. He was at the time telling them about his own death. But what possible comfort can there be when faced with the death of a loved one? Jesus went on to explain: “My Father’s house has many rooms”.

Koreen made a lovely home for her family. She knew the importance of having somewhere where you can feel safe, where love can be shared, and where you truly belong. Our heavenly Father knows this too, and has space enough for all of us in his heavenly home. However unworthy we feel and however many things we have done – or not done – that we regret, there is still a place for us in the Father’s house.

Jesus goes on to say that he is going to his Father’s house to prepare a place for his friends. He does this by his death and resurrection. Jesus dies a horrible, untimely death, so that our greatest enemy – death itself – may be defeated. Jesus dies and rises again so that we can go to the Father’s house.

Jesus makes a journey through death and out the other side so that when we take that journey into death – which we all will one day – we, too, might arrive safely at the Father’s house, if only we hold tight to Jesus – the one who describes himself as “the way, the truth, and the life”.

Our final hymn is the Harwell School leavers’ song. It speaks of a journey:

One more step along the world I go,
One more step along the world I go…
And it's from the old I travel to the new;
Keep me travelling along with you.


Jesus alone can bring us safely to the Father’s house, because no one else has made that journey through death and defeated it for us.

Jesus offers to those who will join him to go on a journey. It is a journey from the old – a world in which we age, get ill and die; a world in which terrible, incomprehensible things happen. It is a journey to the new – a life in God’s new creation, where sickness, suffering, death and mourning will be no more. It is a journey to the Father’s house where there are many rooms. And it is a house that is full of beautiful things.

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell and Chilton
February 2015

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Turning the tables

madonnaandchild
Looking at the news, it would be easy to conclude that God – if He exists – does not have a plan. Or that if He does, then it is going badly wrong. As ever, the poor and weak suffer at the hands of the rich and powerful.

But the story of Christmas tells us otherwise. God does have a plan.

It is a plan that focuses on a baby, born to a poor, young teenager. Even the rich and powerful King Herod is unable to thwart the arrival of this promised Saviour.

It is a plan that involves turning the tables. As Mary sang, “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty”.

It is a plan that includes you. And you are cordially invited to celebrate at your local church this Advent or Christmas. Details of a variety of special services and events can be found here.

With warm greetings from All Saints’ Chilton and St Matthew’s Harwell.

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton
December 2014


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Fires and wires 

fire
Fire has long fascinated and enchanted. We love the magic and romance of candlelight, the homely warmth of an open fire, and the raw power of a raging, crackling bonfire. Fire also features prominently in our calendars. The unfortunate Guy Fawkes will once again be commemorated this month with a customary incineration, and the season will be marked with gunpowder in the skies as we ‘ahh’ and ‘ooh’ at firework displays.
 
But fire can of course be scary and destructive.
 
A few minutes of research on the BBC website revealed the following fire-related stories reported in the space of just 24 hours. Fires in a woodpile in Essex, straw bales in Lincolnshire, a hotel in Yorkshire, a car in Dartford, a church in Shetland, a laboratory in East Anglia, and a flat and an industrial estate in Wales. And of course there was our local claim to fame: the fire at Didcot B power station.
 
I have a vivid and abiding memory of a man being brought into A&E screaming in agony. He had extensive burns that resulted from throwing petrol onto his garden bonfire. Whilst terrible accidents still happen, as a result of building regulations, fire retardant materials, smoke alarms, and improved education, fatal fires are mercifully less common than they once were.
 
Preventing fires is always better than trying to extinguish them.
 
The Bible speaks often of fire. Fire is used to represent the presence of God, in all his awesome holiness. Think of Moses and the burning bush, the pillar of fire going before the Israelites, or the tongues of fire on the Day of Pentecost. Fire is used to represent the destroying fire of judgement. Fire is also used to refer to the power of the tongue.
 
“Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.
The tongue also is a fire…”   James 3:5-6.
 
Our words are powerful things and can be used both for great good or terrible evil. We don’t just have to be ‘preachers of hate’ to set a fire going. Passing on gossip about a neighbour or colleague, putting someone down with a stinging rebuke, or letting someone have both barrels of our unrighteous anger, can cause terrible harm.
 
But the cure is not simply to keep a tight rein on our tongues. The problem needs to be traced to and stopped at its source.
 
It has been suggested that the Didcot power station fire was caused by faulty wiring. What is the source of the ‘fire in our tongues’? The human heart. As Jesus said, “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45). In other words, to prevent the destructive fires started by our words, we need new hearts. And that is just what God promises to his people, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you” (Ezekiel 36:26).
 
Preventing fires is always better than trying to extinguish them. A faulty junction box should be replaced or re-wired before any harm is done. God, in his grace and wisdom, offers divine re-wiring of hearts to all who turn to him.

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton
November 2014

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Harvest 

english apple harvest
A regular autumn fixture for our churches and community is a celebration of harvest. The first weekend in October sees various events including special All Age services in both churches, a cream tea in Chilton and a special lunch in Harwell – more information about these on the front page. We rightly celebrate and give thanks for the plentiful and varied food that we enjoy. But we also think about and seek to provide for those for whom food is not so bountiful, by collecting for those in need locally via Didcot Emergency Foodbank and further afield through the work of Tear Fund.
 
We have a great debt of gratitude to all those who work the land and are involved in that grand chain of events and processes that brings food to our tables. Our farmers work hard in soil preparation and enrichment, pest control, and helping to ensure just the right climate and mix of nutrients necessary for germination, growth, and the eventual harvesting, storage and effective transportation of the crop.
 
But of course there would be no harvest without sowing. No crop without seed.
 
Seeds, though humble in appearance, are quite amazing if you stop to think about them. Packed into a tiny space is all the genetic information and machinery necessary to grow a mature, food-bearing plant, which itself produces more seeds. Seeds, when supplied with the right environment, spring into life in a way that can seem almost miraculous.
 
Jesus spoke of God’s Word as being like a seed that is sown – with the potential to grow and produce a great crop. We know that the success of any seed depends on the environment into which it is sown, and that is true of the seed of God’s Word. The growth of seeds can – amongst other things – be thwarted by stony ground or choked by weeds. Each of us provides a different environment in which the Word of God is sown and there are many things that can impede its growth and fruitfulness, such as a superficial understanding, or distraction by other concerns.
 
The Bible is God’s Word for us, and it should therefore have pride of place not just on the shelf, but in our lives, as we ‘read, mark, learn and inwardly digest’ the deep truths, promises and encouragements we find. Christians hear the Bible read and explained in Sunday services, they meet together to study it, and they read and reflect on it individually. And there are many resources for those who wish to grow in faith through studying the Bible. The Mission Focus this month is the Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF) which produces material to assist those who want to be ‘fertile soil’ for the seed of God’s Word – check the back page for more information about BRF.
 
The universe was created by the Word of God when God spoke the universe into being. The Word of God continues to speak life into being when it finds the fertile soil of hearts that are open to God and ready to produce a harvest of righteousness.
 
“The seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop” (Luke 8:15).

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton
October 2014

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Loving and giving 

“You can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving.” So said Victor Hugo in Les Misérables, that epic tale of love and sacrifice which recently hit the big screen.
 
If you had to choose one word to sum up the Christian faith, you couldn’t do much better than to choose ‘love’. God is love... God so loved the world that he gave his only Son... As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you... Let us love one another, for love comes from God...
 
Love of God and love of neighbour are – according to Jesus – the summary of God’s law. And to love our neighbour means to seek their wellbeing. Christian Aid, whose work is highlighted in May every year, seeks to do just that amongst the poor of the world.
 
christian aid week envelope
Christian Aid was founded in the aftermath of World War II when British and Irish church leaders were determined to do everything possible to help European refugees who had lost everything. These days the work to bring an end to poverty has extended beyond Europe to around 50 countries around the world. Christian Aid tackles the root causes as well as the effects of poverty, through relief, development and advocacy, acting to change an unjust world through practical love and care for those in need, regardless of religion, ethnicity or nationality.
 
Harwell and Chilton have been supporters of the work of Christian Aid for many years and continue to be so. In Harwell, the door-to-door collections will cease for various reasons, but door-to-door collections continue in Chilton, along with other fundraising initiatives, such as the popular Plant Sale and Coffee Morning. For Harwell residents wishing to donate to Christian Aid, envelopes can be found in St Matthew’s Church and returned via the wall safe near the door. Alternatively, it is possible to give online via http://www.christianaid.org.uk/give.

The eradication of poverty is a very Christian activity and a large portion of God's Word is dedicated to the topic of poverty. Obviously, the poor are very close to God's heart. The ministry of Jesus could be even described as poverty eradication – when considered in its widest sense. Humans can be impoverished in their relationship with God and with their fellow humans, oppressed by unjust structures and selfishness, and weighed down by disease and anxiety.
 
Jesus’ made clear at the beginning of his ministry that he had a clear manifesto: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed” (Luke 4:18).
 
We should care about poverty, because God cares about poverty. To support the work of Christian Aid is one way to engage with a great act of practical love in which we don’t just love our neighbour, but join in with the very activity of the God of love. As Victor Hugo also said, “To love another person is to see the face of God.” There can surely be no greater act.

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton
May 2014

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Growing 

Over the past few months our family has developed a keen interest in growth charts. Our baby son, born 3 months prematurely, has at last begun to climb into the right zone, the fruit of my wife’s patient dedication to his well-being, aided in various ways by kind friends, relatives and experts. Growth often needs to be nurtured.
growth chart
Failure to grow at the expected rate is a sign of poor health, and not just in children. Many people are – albeit cautiously – breathing sighs of relief as the British economy at last appears to be growing (1); economic health is vital to the flourishing of a nation. It is no less true of the Church, either. A healthy church is a growing church.

Jesus told his followers to ‘go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:19-20), and the biblical book of Acts describes the early church growing dramatically over a short period of time. Even under the persecution of the Roman Empire, the Church continued to grow, and there are now over two billion Christians around the world, the number having nearly quadrupled in the last 100 years (2).
 
Whilst Christianity has grown enormously in some parts of the world in recent years, notably in sub-Saharan Africa and the Asia-Pacific region, amongst some groups it is apparently in decline. The Church of England, for example, has in general not done well in keeping young people. But there are significant exceptions to this and many areas of healthy growth.
 
Recent research has identified a number of factors in the churches which are growing (3). These include consciously prioritising growth, being prepared to change and experiment, sharing leadership, and emphasising welcome and nurture. But another key factor is a focus on and investment in outreach to children and young people – the ‘missing generation’ – and youth and children’s workers are particularly effective. The Christian faith is for all ages, and it provides, amongst other things, identity, purpose and values. A large body of research shows that it is correlated with greater happiness and a reduced risk of mental health problems, substance abuse, delinquency and marital instability (4). The Christian faith is good news for young people and for wider society.
 
Our churches have just embarked on raising funds to employ someone to work with children and families across Harwell and Chilton, giving leadership to the work, and providing groups, activities and support to the children and families of our villages. This is a significant investment, but one that we are confident will be worthwhile. It is vital that our children grow – it is a sign of good health – but we know that growth often needs to be nurtured; it is our prayer that this initiative will enable that to happen. Further information about this project can be found here.

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton
March 2014


Sources quoted:
(1) Economy: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10613201
(2) World church growth: http://abt.cm/1o43lHE
(3) Factors in growing churches: http://www.churchgrowthresearch.org.uk/
(4) Benefits of faith: Koenig, H G, McCullough, M E, & Larson, D B Handbook of Religion and Health (OUP, 2001)

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Floods and rescue

And still it rains! I write this during a gap in the clouds and a welcome break in the recent downpour, but I see the forecast is for yet more rain. Where does it all come from?!

Having recently had our fair share of dry summers, I suspect we all appreciate the value of rain. Many parts of the world suffer regular and repeated droughts and famines, and I am sure we are grateful to have a rather different climate. But it is of course possible to have ‘too much of a good thing’, and many in our country have recently experienced disruption, damage and even deaths associated with excessive rainfall and widespread flooding.
ark
But all this is nothing new, and the Bible is full of ‘watery stories’, including migrant people forced to cross dangerous waters, perilous sea voyages, fearsome storms, and – of course – dramatic floods.

The story of Noah and the Ark is probably one of the best known stories. It is a story of God’s judgement and grace, of God’s plan to rescue his creation from destruction, and to provide his people with a new start. The story famously ends with a rainbow and a promise, but God’s rescue plan was never actually completed in these ancient events. It is fairly obvious that the world and its inhabitants still need rescuing. Noah was not the Saviour, but he did point forward to one.

The story of the Ark is in fact the story of the Church, and it is no coincidence that many church buildings have been designed to look like boats and arks. There is an interesting example near the Headington roundabout on the Oxford ring road.

Noah in his day was mocked for his faith. It seemed ridiculous to be building an enormous boat in the middle of a desert. But in time it became obvious to all that Noah’s faith was well placed, and he and his family were saved from the destruction. Many today mock those within the Church who put their faith in a God to save them.

But we surely do need to be saved – not just from dangerous waters, but from everything that results from humanity’s rebellion against God and our inhumanity to one another. The Church brings the good news of the possibility of rescue and a new start, of safety and safe passage through this life.

God has not abandoned us. He says to his people, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you” (Psalm 43:2a).

Noah was not the Saviour, Jesus – the one who walks on water and calms storms – is. As we face storms both about and within, let us each put our faith and trust in him.
 
Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton
February 2014

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Following a star

kings Christmas card 2014
Do you follow a football team, the twists and turns of celebrity lives, or the latest tweets by politicians or commentators? Like newly-hatched ducks, we all seem to want to follow someone or something.

The wise men followed a star, but not for its own sake. The star showed the way to one far greater than any graduate of The X-Factor, the cleverest public intellectual, or sporting talent. They found the one in whom ‘all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell’. It was he who said ‘follow me’ to fishermen and tax collectors 2000 years ago, and still seeks followers today.

Why not follow the shepherds, wise men and angels to the newborn child as we celebrate together with a variety of special services and events this Advent and Christmas? Many are suitable for families with young children, and range from traditional candlelit services to modern, interactive events – details are provided in this card.

May you know God’s blessing this Christmas and in the coming year.

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Enjoyed Holiday Club?

Did your child enjoy attending Holiday Club?

Are you now wondering what's next? We are hoping to run another Holiday Club next year, but between now and then there are a number of activities and events that might be of interest.

'Hands Free'

The band that played for Holiday Club play every month on a Sunday afternoon at St Matthew's Church, and include some of the songs that we sang at Holiday Club. 'Hands Free' is every second Sunday of the month, starts at 4.30pm with drinks and snacks, is informal, interactive and family-friendly, and we use projection technology throughout. Do come along.

Special events

Around the last week in October we have a 'Light Party' which includes crafts, games, singing and food. All the family are welcome. We also have an activity morning planned for the the last Saturday in November. This 'Advent Special' helps us to help to gear up for Christmas and give parents some much-appreciated child-free time! More information on both of these proposed events to follow - please check the website and the Ridgeway Broadsheet.

All Age Worship

Every first Sunday of the month at 9.30am in Chilton and 11.00am in Harwell we have 'All Age Worship', a family service lasting 40 minutes. (On other Sundays children are equally welcome and we also offer a programme for children and young people that runs alongside the service: click here for more details).

Easter

Family-friendly activities usually happen on Good Friday morning in Harwell and Easter Sunday afternoon in Chilton. More information available here. For information about Easter services click here.

'Y-Club'

'Y-Club' is a free club for children from F1 to year 6 at which the children learn about God through Bible stories, prayer, craft activities and have lots of fun doing so! It meets every Thursday after school at Chilton School. 

Holiday Club

We are hoping to run Holiday Club again next summer but have not yet confirmed dates. Information about the Club will be made available on posters, fliers and on the website in the summer and the dates posted on the website as soon as they are set.

Harwell Young Singers

HYS is for boys and girls aged 7-18 who love to sing. It meets every Thursday at 6.15pm at St Matthew's Church. More information available here.

1st Harwell Scouts

Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and Explorers meet on various evenings in St Matthew's Church Hall as well as going on camps, night hikes, sailing, moutain biking, and loads more. 1st Harwell Scouts is sponsored by St Matthew's and further information about the Group can be found here.
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North Korea

At the time of writing, summer holidays are drawing close and many people will be planning to get away for rest and relaxation and perhaps to explore new places. But I suspect that not many people will be planning a trip to North Korea. Often referred to as a ‘rogue state’, North Korea has technically been at war with South Korea since the 1950s, but tensions have been rising since it tested a missile late last year. It is the world’s most militarised country but it is also a world-leader on another scale: the ‘Open Doors’ World Watch List. North Korea is the most difficult place on earth to be a Christian.

north korea
North Korea is vehemently opposed to religion of any kind, requiring instead that its people worship founder Kim Il-Sung. It's true that the whole population of North Korea is suffering, but Christians are definitely singled out. Despite performing many outward duties, they do not worship Kim Il-Sung – they worship Jesus Christ. Their mind is not filled with North Korea's ideology of self-reliance. They care for the sick, the orphans and the hungry when no one else does. These criminal acts of 'loving your neighbour' – of 'not fitting in' – make them political enemies. And so Christians are classified as hostile and face arrest, detention, torture, even public execution. Even the possession of a Bible is reason enough to be killed or locked up with your family for the remainder of your life. Tens of thousands live and (ultimately) die in concentration camps. But despite severe oppression, there is a growing underground church movement of an estimated 400,000 Christians.

The North Korean treatment of Christians is not historically unusual. The Christian church was born in the fires of persecution, and a whole series of Roman emperors – Nero, Domitian, Marcus Aurelius, Decius and Diocletian – tried hard to destroy the Christian faith. And the Christian church has continued to be persecuted ever since. Over 300,000 Christians every year are killed for their faith. For a Christian, the worldwide statistical chance of becoming a martyr in your lifetime is approximately one in 200. But still the church grows. The church may be in decline in parts of the West, but Christianity is growing fast elsewhere, with the greatest growth most often happening in places where persecution is the strongest.

But why would anyone take the risk? People throughout history and across the world come to faith in Jesus Christ because the heavenly reward far outweighs the earthly suffering. Like those hundreds of thousands of North Korean Christians, they entrust everything to God, because they are convinced that his love is stronger than anything else.

The Apostle Paul, no stranger to persecution himself, expressed it as follows: “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
 
Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton
July 2013

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A city on a hilltop

Mark Twain is often misquoted as saying: "Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." In fact he said something rather more prosaic. But even a casual look at recent stories in the news proves that the same might aptly be said of religious faith. The rumours of its demise have been greatly exaggerated, probably to the chagrin of its most ardent ill-wishers. Why else would the media and politicians make such a fuss when a bunch of unelected jumped-up vicars write a letter to The Sunday Telegraph about benefit cuts? Why else would 5,000 journalists assemble in Rome – complete with 'chimney-cam' – to witness dirty or white smoke emerging from a tin chimney on a church roof?
cityonhill
It is clear that people are interested in matters of faith, and its outworkings do make news. Christians are – as Jesus said we would be – "a city built on a hilltop" that cannot be hidden. This is why it's so important that the Church gets it right. So we should be grateful that the first headline-grabbing comments of Justin Welby since being sworn in as Archbishop of Canterbury, were "on the side of the poor", because in that he was surely being faithful to Jesus's Kingdom manifesto: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor" (Luke 4:18); and also to the apostolic demand "they asked us to remember the poor" (Galatians 2.10). It's an anachronistic anomaly that Justin Welby was enthroned with the paraphernalia of medieval power, an apparent disconnect with the simplicity of the Church's Lord and his message to the poor.

He of course has little choice in the matter – as neither has Pope Francis whose ministry has been to the poor and whose choice of name restates that commitment. Bullet-proof buggies will replace public buses. Church leaders' only hope is to lead lives of transparent holiness, marked by Christ-like simplicity and prayer. However heavy the outer trappings, it is the inner man who is revealed by his words and actions and is watched by the world. And we shouldn't kid ourselves that onlookers are interested only in those with high profiles.

The Church has recently celebrated Pentecost, recalling the time when the Holy Spirit was sent to the church to empower it for mission. Every Christian believer is inhabited by the Holy Spirit in order to reveal the love of Christ in the community. C S Lewis wrote that the Church that "exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became man for no other purpose." To be a disciple is this radical calling to be "little Christs"; in us others hope for a glimpse of Jesus, full of passionate care for the poor, the marginalised, the imprisoned, the deluded and the dying – and for themselves. Not only must we pray that our leaders should be shining examples, but Jesus reminds us all: "You are the light of the world."

Adapted from an article by Michael Wenham writing for Evangelical Alliance

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A life transformed

I heard recently about a group of teenagers chatting and laughing on a pavement when a lady, probably in her 80’s, tried to get past. The group wouldn’t move, however, blocking the path and forcing her walk on the road. As she passed they jeered at her and made disparaging comments about her age and appearance.
respect
When I heard of this, my first reaction was one of anger. How dare they treat someone like that? But these feelings were soon followed by feelings of sadness and despair, even. I thought about our society which increasingly worships youth and celebrity, and where one’s worth is measured in terms of one’s bank balance, looks or abilities. Being raised in that environment, perhaps these young people have not been given the moral grounding that many take for granted.

The Bible speaks of honouring the one’s parents and the elderly and of caring for the weak and vulnerable, but when you don’t know or don’t respect biblical authority then it is hard to justify why you should do these things. The Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10), but when society tells you that God is dead and ‘if it feels good do it’, life can easily become a moral free-for-all.

But then I started to feel hopeful as I thought of dramatic stories of God’s intervention in the lives of apparently hopeless cases. People like Nicky Cruz.

Nicky Cruz was raised in Puerto Rico and was the victim of repeated physical abuse and rejection at the hands of his parents. In an attempt to escape his violent upbringing, Cruz fled to New York City in the mid 1950s where he soon got caught up in the gang violence that was sweeping the city. Fearless and seemingly immune to physical pain, Cruz rose through the ranks of the notorious Mau Mau gang in Fort Greene, Brooklyn to become their War Lord. Cruz’ life was a downward spiral of violence and dysfunction. A psychiatrist once told the court and Nicky that he was “doomed… finished… on a one-way trip to jail, the electric chair and hell.”

Then one day a skinny preacher, David Wilkerson, came to the war-torn streets of Brooklyn delivering a message to Nicky – “Jesus loves you, Nicky.” Cruz threatened to kill the preacher, but several weeks later at a rally in New York City, Cruz surrendered his life to God and exchanged his weapons for a Bible. For the past 50 years, Nicky has been travelling around the world reaching tens of millions of people with his miraculous testimony and continues to minister in inner cities and prisons. His life story has been told in the best-selling book, ‘The Cross and the Switchblade’, and in the movie by the same title. I read that book and saw that film when I was a teenager, and they had a significant impact on my fledgling Christian faith.

There are many others like Nicky Cruz, radically transformed by the power of God through the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Many stories of God’s work in the lives of individuals are less dramatic, but no less significant, and some of those will be shared at the Songs of Praise event on Harwell Recreation Ground on Sunday 26th May. If you are tempted to despair and need to be encouraged, please come along. If you just want to join in with a good old sing then you are equally welcome. And if you would like to share your story of how God has been at work in your life, then be in touch!

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton
May 2013

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What sort of king?

The history books have been re-opened with the recent discovery under a car park in Leicester of the remains of King Richard III. Many people have in their minds a picture of Richard III heavily influenced by Shakespeare’s version of events. But this discovery is important in casting light on the question of what sort of a king he really was.
Easter 2013
This Easter we have an opportunity to look again at the questions around King Jesus. ‘Christ’ means king, but Jesus is a king famous for having a crown not of gold, but of thorns. He was a king who came ‘not to be served, but to serve’ and who, on Maundy Thursday, took the role of the lowliest servant washing his disciples’ feet. He was a king who, on Good Friday, despite being innocent of any crime, experienced the most brutal form of Roman execution – that usually reserved for the very worst of criminals. He was a king for whose people the confusion and waiting of Easter Saturday was dramatically transformed by the earth-shattering events and discoveries of Easter Sunday.
 
King Jesus surprised then and continues to surprise today. Why not discover the King and celebrate with us this Holy Week in our services in Chilton and Harwell? Everyone is welcome.
 
Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton
April 2013

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A little lie

Most of us will admit that we have at times told a little lie to avoid embarrassment. It was to save face that former Cabinet minister Chris Huhne asked his wife to carry the can for his speeding offence. A decade later the chickens have come home to roost, with the misdemeanour revealed and a political career in tatters. From chickens to horses, the European food industry is another casualty of dishonesty and the horsemeat scandal has opened a window on a murky European food industry seemingly riddled with dishonest practices driven by pressure to cut costs. 
lies
We read stories of government ministers in Europe embarrassed by discoveries of past plagiarism, and of the same syndrome on the other side of the Atlantic. Recently Harvard University accused 125 undergraduates of sharing and plagiarising answers for a final take-home exam, and a study found that an astonishing 85% of high school students cheat in tests. But it is hardly surprising that young people cheat when the most successful people in society cheat all the time – bankers pocket billions by rigging the interest rates they charge each other, pharmaceutical companies fake their trial results, famous singers lip-sync at concerts, and elite athletes such as Lance Armstrong illegally use drugs to get to the top.
 
It is shocking how even very young children find it so easy to deal in half-truths and spin. Deceiving others comes shamefully easily to us. It is very tempting to be economical with the truth, or to lie outright, when it is apparently rewarding to do so. But lies and deception are ultimately damaging – not just to those around us, but to us too – as Chris Huhne and Lance Armstrong have discovered. “Oh, what a tangled web we weave… when first we practice to deceive” observed Walter Scott.
 
So what is the solution? It starts with naming the problem – not to do so is another form of deception. The Apostle John tells us that “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us”. Mark Twain – that shrewd observer of the human condition – was also aware of the universality of this particular blight: “There’s one way to find out if a man is honest”, suggests Twain, “ask him; if he says yes, you know he’s crooked.” But having the honesty to answer ‘no’ is the approach that John advocates: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).
 
Our food chain is contaminated and in need of purification, but the only chance of that is to identify the source of the problem. For ourselves, we need to name the problem and be prepared to be embarrassed in order to be purified. To deny the problem is self-deception. But to admit it is the way to life and freedom.
 
Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton

March 2013


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Pairing up

Be mine, Valentine. No sooner, it seems, are the shops clear of tinsel and baubles than they restock with heart-shaped chocolates and soft toys bearing romantic messages. But interest in romance is not just around Valentine’s Day. Throughout the year the pop charts are full of love songs and the cinemas with films which have a love story at their heart.
 couple
Teenagers are particularly sensitive to the biological imperative to pair up and often expend a great deal of time and money trying to look just right for that special someone who might come along. It is not out of fashion: according to a recent survey, 89% of young people want to get married.
 
Deep in our wiring, most human beings seem to desire to find a mate and ‘live happily ever after’. Though we often fall short of the ideal, there is a deep yearning for relationships that are lifelong and exclusive. Divorce is a sad reality, but two thirds of first marriages do in fact last ‘until death us do part’. And research suggests that marriage is good both for adults and children. Whilst it is not always possible for various reasons, we know that children generally do best when brought up by married parents.
 
From the earliest times human societies have recognised, regulated and organised themselves around lifelong ’pair-bonds’ of a man and woman in which children are born and raised. Marriage has not been invented by any government or religion, nor can it be redefined. Marriage arises from our nature.
 
It is one of the joys and privileges of ministry that I get to meet couples wanting to get married and then officiate at their weddings. The Church of England wedding service is well-known and speaks of marriage as reflecting the union of Christ with his bride, the Church. Marriage is God’s idea and the love and commitment expressed in marriage is one of the ways humans are designed to reflect God.
 
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” (Revelation 21:2-3).
 
Marriage is a precious thing which we should celebrate and protect, and we should support those who are married or aspiring to relationships of love and commitment. Perhaps every day should be Valentine’s Day.

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton
February 2013


References for research quoted can be found here


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Good news

What would be the best news you could hear this Christmas? An all-clear on your health, a promotion or exciting new job, or news of a new baby? Our TVs and newspapers have been full of plenty of bad news in 2012, so some decent good news would be welcome as the year draws to a close.
gloria
Just over 2000 years ago, angels – God’s messengers – came from heaven. They brought good news – earth-shattering, mind-blowing good news – for all people. We continue to announce and celebrate those ‘great glad tidings’ in our churches this Christmas. There are a variety of special services, including those suitable for families with young children, traditional candlelit services, and others besides – details are provided in this card. Do join us to celebrate the good news of this special season.

Warm greetings from All Saints’ Chilton and St Matthew’s Harwell. May you know God’s blessing this Christmas and in the coming year.

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton
December 2012


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Autumn days

To my mind, autumn starts when we first decide to put on the central heating at home. Officially it started on 22nd September – the equinox when day and night each last 12 hours. We may yet get a burst of heat before winter is upon us, but the signs of autumn are certainly all around.
 

For many of us, the annual turning of the seasons simply adds interest to life, giving an opportunity to wear a different wardrobe, or engage in an alternative set of leisure activities. For others, particularly those who work outdoors or close to the land, the seasons make a huge difference to daily life. For some, particularly the frail or very poor, the change of seasons can lead to illness or even death.
autumn

However much we are aware of them, the seasons are a fixed part of life in the natural world. They also point towards the seasons in our own lives.
 

Over the last few months I have been involved with quite a number of funerals. A popular reading at such services includes the following verses: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2).
 

This ancient book from the biblical wisdom literature reminds us that we are as subject to seasons as the rest of the world. And faced with the inevitable change and seasonality that is built into the natural world, we could become fatalistic, resigned to being trapped in these unavoidable cycles. Or we could try to look beyond them.
 

In another book of biblical wisdom, Job recognises that the seasons are not directed by an impersonal power, but that there is a person behind them. In a time of personal crisis, Job, with prophetic insight, declares that it is the Lord who gives and takes away (Job 1:21). Years later Jesus further explains that because of his love, the heavenly Father “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45).
 

Whilst they may be outside our control, the seasons are part of God’s good plan for his world. So as autumn arrives, whether around us or in our lives, let’s give thanks to God for the seasons, trust his loving wisdom, and seek to make the most of the differing opportunities that each brings.

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton
October 2012


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Holidays

This month I'm writing from the middle of a field. Our whole family are joining in with the 1st Harwell Scout Group summer camp - and we're having a great time! At this time of year people in their thousands take to the fields for their holidays - living life very differently for a week or two, enjoying being close to the natural world. Such activity is all the more enjoyable when the sun is shining, as at last it is (at least, at the time of writing!). For others, the concepts of holiday and camping most certainly do not go together, and a proper bed, running water and solid walls are strictly non-negotiable.
camping
We are different in the things we find restful and refreshing. But we all need to take time out of our normal routines to rest, reflect, and recharge. It is easy to get ground down by what can sometimes seem to be a treadmill of daily life, and building in relaxation and recreation into our lives is essential if we want to stay healthy and fresh. This is not only good sense, it is commanded in the Bible.

God's people were instructed to have one day free from work every seven - the so called Sabbath day - and this was taken so seriously that it even made it into the Ten Commandments.

"Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day

is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work"

(Exodus 20:9-10a).

In addition to the weekly Sabbath day were a cycle of special annual celebrations that also enforced rest, and this important concept has made it into our culture. The English word ‘holiday' comes from ‘Holy Day' - a day set aside for a special purpose - time to rest, reflect and recharge.

We should not feel guilty about carving out time for these things. We need them, and God commands them. We can keep going for a while without a break, but like a vehicle that is not regularly serviced, we risk inefficiency and even breakdown. As pit stops are important for racing cars, so breaks are for humans. So whether it is time in a field under canvas or in more civilised surroundings, do take a holiday if you can.

With best wishes,

 

Jonathan.

 

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton
August 2012


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Only one gets the prize...

rings
“Send her victorious, happy and glorious!” The Diamond Jubilee celebrations are only just over, and the country finds itself gearing up for another major event. Again, the National Anthem will be played, but now to urge Team GB to victory in the London Olympics. This year is a gift for schools, who are able to link their Sports Days to this global celebration of sporting excellence to encourage their pupils to athletic endeavour.

Sport and athletics can be very valuable, not only in promoting physical health, but also for encouraging teamwork, building self-esteem and developing perseverance. A number of pioneering projects in poor communities use sport to great effect, and sports teams and events have great potential to bring together people from diverse backgrounds.

But not everyone is sporty. Some people have been scarred by bad experiences at school, not being picked for the team, or coming last in the race despite trying hard. Some people would love to be good at sport, but it just doesn’t happen for them. What does the Olympics have for them? Well, one thing the Olympics offers is a chance to cheer on the national team that is representing us. Although we may not be up to competing, in a way they are doing it for us. They go through the gruelling training and the pressure of competing, paying a great personal cost, in order to win the prize on our behalf. We can cheer them on, and if they win medals, we can celebrate with them. Winning gold in the Olympics is out of the question for most of us, but they can do it for us.

The Christian faith sees Jesus representing us in a similar way; the champion athlete representing his nation and winning the prize on their behalf. And as there is only one gold medal or crown of laurels to be won in each race, only Jesus is able to win the prize. As the Apostle Paul says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?” He goes on to say that the prize that Christians are really interested in is one of supreme value, of even greater worth than an Olympic Gold; it is “a crown that will last forever” (1 Corinthians 9:24,25).

Jesus is the one who is truly victorious, happy and glorious. He wins the prize that we are incapable of winning, but he wins it on our behalf. As we cheer on our team at the Olympics this summer, urging them on to win the prizes that are far beyond our reach, we can know that, however many they win, the ultimate prize of eternal life is already won for those who cheer for Jesus.

 

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton
July 2012


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The Jubilee

Will you be celebrating the Jubilee? The souvenir mugs have arrived in the shops, the TV documentaries are ready to air, and bunting will soon be going up. Many people will be marking the Jubilee with street parties and, of course, an extra Bank Holiday, a free day’s pay symbolising the Sovereign’s favour on her subjects.

jubilee
But in these tough economic times many will not feel like celebrating. Our economy continues to bump along the bottom, vulnerable to the debt-fuelled crisis in the Eurozone. Personal and national debt is pervasive and damaging, a significant factor in mental illness. Celebrating the Jubilee amongst mounting debt would seem to be incongruous. But it shouldn’t be. Jubilee is all about debt.

Jubilee is an ancient term used of a biblical celebration held every 50 years in which debts were cancelled, lands returned to their original owners and slaves freed (see Leviticus 25). Jubilee literally means ‘release’ or ‘liberty’. Jubilee was built into the heart of the life of God’s people to reflect that both the land and the people belonged to God, and needed protection.

But Jubilee was not simply an economically levelling piece of Jewish legislation. It set the scene for and pre-figured the Christian gospel.

When Jesus launched his ministry in his hometown synagogue, quoting from the prophet Isaiah, he declared that he had come to proclaim and bring about liberty, literally ‘Jubilee’, saying

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim Jubilee [liberty] to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at Jubilee [liberty] those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (Luke 4:18–19).


The Christian faith is all about the good news of liberty; the pardoning of debts – especially our moral debt to God – and of release from oppression. So as we celebrate the Jubilee year of Queen Elizabeth, let us remember also to celebrate the Jubilee of the King of Heaven, the year of the Lord’s favour.

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton
June 2012


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The rising of the Son

he is risen
It’s wonderful to see the signs of spring around us and enjoy the warmth of the sun. The sun has been in the news recently, with stories about stellar storms, solar power, and impending drought. 93 million miles may seem like a long way away, and on a cloudy day we may even forget that it’s there, but the importance of the sun’s presence at the centre of the solar system can’t be overstated. Without the sun there would be no life on this planet.

With the reappearance of the sun and the new life of spring, comes Easter. Easter is the central festival of the Christian year and the importance of the Easter events can’t be overstated. Easter is about life and death – or rather the death and life – of Jesus Christ and of every human that has ever lived. It recalls events a long way off that can be ignored or taken for granted, but if true are of universal importance. Whether the sun shines affects us all. Whether God’s Son rose from the dead is even more significant.

This Son is very much in the news at our churches this Easter. Whatever your age or outlook you are very welcome to join us to investigate, reflect on, and celebrate the rising of God’s Son and the life that He brings.

 

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey

Rector of Harwell with Chilton

April 2012


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Appreciation

March the 18th this year provides an opportunity for celebration. And I don’t just mean for hard-pressed florists and chocolatiers hoping for a boost in their cash-flow. Mother’s Day has become an international phenomenon, in part because of commercial interests, but also, I believe, because we recognise that it is a good thing to appreciate and celebrate those who gave us life.
daffodils
In Britain, mothers are traditionally celebrated on Mothering Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent, a welcome half-way break in a season of austerity. But what of the fathers? Hard as the men might try to be supportive and ‘hands-on’ with their families, much of the burden, especially in those exhausting early years, falls on the mother. Much of mothering is hard grind, a 24-7 commitment to putting the needs of a small, dependent human being before your own, and bearing the toll, physically and emotionally.

Of course, there are rewards to be had along the way, and the joy of witnessing landmark achievements such as baby's first words. It was not very diplomatic of my children that the first word each of them uttered was not the deserved and deeply rewarding ‘ma-ma’ but the rather galling ‘da-da’! Of course, it was probably nothing to do with expressing a preference for one parent, but simply making an easier sound.

Whatever the significance of our first words, it is universally true that we are not very good at appreciating those who have given so much to us, in particular our parents. Mothering Sunday and the fathers’ counterpart in June are an opportunity, in a small way, to address this oversight.

But there is a greater oversight that needs to be addressed. The love and sacrifice of our human parents directs us to an even greater, even more loving Parent, the one ‘from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named’ (according to Ephesians 3:15). And like our earthly parents, we often take the heavenly Father for granted and neglect to express our gratitude to Him for His goodness to us.

Whilst our mothers give birth to us, feed, clothe, educate, and comfort us, God is the ultimate source of all those things. Whilst our mothers have made and make great sacrifices out of their love for us, all that is a pointer towards the much greater love of the God who became one of us in his Son, and the unimaginable sacrifice made so that the beloved children of the heavenly Father might have life.

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey

Rector of Harwell with Chilton
March 2012


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New Beginnings

exercise book
As a child at school I used to love getting a new exercise book. With every new school year came a new set of books and a new opportunity—the possibly of a flawless book without any mistakes! I am by nature an optimist. It is said that a pessimist can never be disappointed but whether expected or not, every one of us is inevitably and regularly brought face to face with the reality of imperfection, the disappointment of falling short, the shame of missing the mark. However hard we try, it is a sad certainty that we cannot keep our exercise books free of mistakes, our relationships free of selfishness, or our world free of suffering. New Year’s Resolutions, however sincere, are simply not enough. There are forces at work stronger than our good intentions.

But the Christian message is one of hope and good news, of good overcoming evil, and of the perfect vanquishing imperfection. It is a message of fresh starts, forgiveness for past failure, and new beginnings. Jesus spoke of those who put their faith in him even of being ‘born again’, of being a new creation, even.

 

As we reach a new year and a new school term, accompanied no doubt by hopes of self-improvement and of doing better than before, we have before us a genuine opportunity to start afresh. With Christmas behind us, we look forward to Easter when Jesus was raised from the dead to new life, defeating the dark powers that work against all of us, thwarting our best efforts. 2012 gives us the opportunity to meet the Lord of life, the giver of opportunities. If you have not already done so, why not make a resolution this year to investigate his claims, perhaps by coming to church on a Sunday or by joining the Alpha Course running on Wednesday evenings, and discover whether a new beginning really is possible?

 

‘He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” ’ Revelation 21:5


Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey

Rector of Harwell with Chilton

January 2012


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Celebrate with us

ChristmasCard
Christmas is coming! For many people, the run-up to Christmas is a time of stress and worry. The pressure of buying presents, preparing meals and hosting visitors can be overwhelming. In amongst the busyness and commercialism it is good to slow down, to take time to reorientate ourselves, and to remember the miracle of that first Christmas, when God became a human baby.

This Advent, the season of preparation, and at Christmas itself, there are a number of opportunities to prepare for and celebrate that wonderful event, and this card contains details of the variety of special services that will be happening in Harwell and Chilton. There are services suitable for families with young children, traditional candlelit services, and services for those wanting to celebrate communion on one of the most important ‘feast days’ of Christianity. Jesus came for all people, and all are welcome at our services in this special season.

Warm greetings from All Saints’ Chilton and St Matthew’s Harwell. May you know God’s blessing this Christmas and in the coming year.

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey

Rector of Harwell with Chilton

December 2011


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Lest we forget

How is your memory? Probably not as good as that of the actress Marilu Henner who has the rare condition ‘hyperthymesia’. Marilu is able to remember every day of her life as if it were yesterday. “When someone asks me about a particular day, it’s like I’m looking for a scene on a DVD playing before me,” she told the Sunday Times. “In a second I’m back there, looking at the scene as I saw it. I can focus in on details, like the title of a book.”remember

 

Memory is an essential ingredient of our humanity – it is vital to be able to remember how to look after ourselves, to remember who our friends are, and, indeed, who we ourselves are. Much of what we remember is automatic, but some things we need intentionally to remember by, for example, setting alarms, leaving notes on the fridge, and holding special events.

 

November is a month of remembrance. The 5th is when we remember Guy Fawkes and the plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament. That key time in our national history has been formative for our sense of national identity. The 11th is another day when we remember those involved in events whose importance is not just national but global. We remember with gratitude those in the armed forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice to secure our freedom. And for us as a family, the 16th is a day when we remember and celebrate the birth of one of our four children – a rather dramatic delivery as it turned out – and the blessing and wonder of that new life.

 

Each of these events is marked symbolically and regularly and strengthens our sense of identity and unity. The Christian faith similarly celebrates symbolically and regularly an event which determines our identity and unites us. In the Lord’s Supper, also known as Holy Communion or the Eucharist, we look to three key events.

 

Firstly we look back to its precursor – the Jewish Passover meal. This key event marked the beginnings of the Jewish nation when they were rescued from slavery in Egypt, and defined the nation as God’s chosen people. Secondly, we remember the Last Supper before the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection secured for us freedom from sin and death. Thirdly, we look forward to the future time of celebration, likened in the Bible to a feast in God’s glorious presence. This wonderful prospect inspires and motivates us in our Christian lives.

Identity, sacrifice and celebration. To remember is an essential part of life and that which roots, orientates and sustains us. To remember is part of what it is to be human. This November let’s take time to remember, and be thankful.

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey

Rector of Harwell with Chilton

November 2011


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Listen Up

I would like share this joke with you. The picture is of a wife addressing her husband, who is somewhat pre-occupied. “You never listen to me,” she says in frustration, “you only hear what you want to hear.” “Sure,” he replies, “I’ll have a beer.” The sad truth is that we are not always very good at listening to one another. It is all too easy to get locked into our own little world, and pay too little attention to the views and feelings of others. But that is not the way it should be. It has been suggested that since humans have two ears and one mouth they should listen at least twice as much as they speak.


stethoscopeListening skills are a key part of the curriculum at good medical schools. Such skills are taught for at least two reasons. Not only is good listening therapeutic in itself, it is also essential to the process of making a diagnosis. It is said that 90% of all diagnoses can be made simply from listening to what a patient says. Listening is also a key part of the next stage in making a diagnosis – the examination – hence the importance of the stethoscope. Another reason for listening is to expand one’s own resources by gaining from the wisdom and experience of others.

 

I and my family are new to Harwell and Chilton, and since arriving we have been listening hard, trying to learn who’s who, what’s what, and where’s where. I have decided, particularly during my first 70 days in post, intentionally and carefully to listen in order to discern the future direction for the churches of Harwell and Chilton. This decision is partly informed by common sense but also by Christian theology. You see, Christians believe that God is a God who cares for his people and speaks to them in order to guide them.

 

A familiar biblical image of God is that of a shepherd. In the ancient near-east and in many parts of the world today, shepherds guide their flocks to places of safety and good pasture by calling to them. The sheep learn to recognise and trust the voice of the shepherd and so follow. Jesus says “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).
 

God speaks to and guides us in all sorts of ways. Christians believe that the primary way is through his Son, Jesus Christ, as revealed in the Bible, but that God also speaks to us indirectly through other people, our circumstances and our consciences. It can be difficult to hear the ‘still small voice’ of God (cf 1 Kings 19:11-13) and it can be all too easy to hear what we want to hear. But if we genuinely want to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd guiding us, we can.
 

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey

Rector of Harwell with Chilton

October 2011


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The Next Generation

Journalists sometimes complain that there is little of interest to report in August. Not so this year when, around the time that my family were moving into Harwell Rectory, our screens were inundated with distressing scenes in English cities of violence, looting and arson and its awful aftermath.

 

Why has this happened? The post-mortem is still ongoing and much ink has been spilt in the struggle to make sense of these shocking events. Many people accept that whilst the perpetrators were a relatively small minority, this 'Lord of the Flies' nightmare represents the terrifying tip of the iceberg of a generation that has grown up in a society that has drifted a long way from its Christian moorings.
 

youthstudy

What is to be done? Justice must be done, the debris cleared up, and the victims cared for. But if we are going to heed this wake-up call, we also need to engage in 'preventative medicine'. We have done it before and can do it again. The 1820's was a time in which, like today, many young people in the cities were out of control. A series of movements for social reform resulted, including the creation of Sunday Schools and YMCA buildings along with the teaching of morality and self-control. Within a generation, the rot was reversed and social order restored.

 

We all have a moral duty to invest in our young people and support families in what is arguably the most difficult and important job of all, raising the next generation. As father of four young children, I know it is not an easy task! The Church, in particular, is charged with passing on to the next generation the life-transforming Christian story. Psalm 78 speaks of this imperative:

 

We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds
of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done...
he commanded our forefathers to teach their children,
so the next generation would know them...
and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would
not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

 

The Church has its work cut out. Ageing congregations around the country support the notion that there has been a failure in transmission, rather like a radio that has lost its tuning. The challenge to connect with and nurture the next generation is great, but the need, as evidenced by the scenes in early August, is inescapable.


It is sometimes said that 'it takes a village to raise a child.' We in the villages of Harwell and Chilton, and the churches at their heart, face a great challenge. But if we are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices to invest in the future and make young people and families a priority, they and the society they will come to lead will benefit immeasurably.
 

Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey

Rector of Harwell with Chilton

September 2011


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